I have been thinking about writing a final letter To Ufi since before his passing. Until now, I hadn’t felt ready. With his ashes now resting in his favorite place, the kind of day outside he would have liked, quiet inside, and the belief that I can do this now, here we go.
You were the perfect guide dog for me. The truth is I never imagined having a guide dog as wonderful as you until I realized how much you were bringing to my life.
Some will say it’s crazy, but I admire you. I have never known anyone with your determination. I have never known anyone with your courage. Right until the end, you refused to quit.
Since your passing, I have been using your determination to motivate me. I have done my elliptical each of the 10 days since you left us.
Today, when my sore leg and hip made me want to rest, I reminded myself of the way you fought through a cancerous tumor, Cushing’s disease, a leg you couldn’t use, weight we never thought you would have, and severe skin allergies to keep going. If you could fight through all of that to pick up your toy and get in your pool, I can work through a little discomfort to get my elliptical done for the day.
Even though you’re gone, you are still improving me and making my life better.
As I have said before, I experienced a feeling of safety with you I may never have again. Although you weren’t trained to protect me, everyone who loves you knows you would have done everything in your power to protect us. Even in your last days, when I knew the act of standing was hard for you, I could count on you barking when you thought you should. When we were home alone, you would still go to the door barking when a noise outside concerned you.
Writing this, I’m home alone. It won’t be dark for a couple of hours. I’m not scared, but I would be lying if I said I’m as comfortable as I was all the years I had you. It’s one thing to to feel like nothing bad is likely to happen. It’s entirely another thing to know you have a big dog who is very willing to attack anyone to keep you safe.
Until that night in our old apartment when people broke the lock but didn’t enter because you were on your back feet, with your hair up, and growling at the door, I never thought of being the victim of a home invasion. From that night until the day you died, I never worried about being the victim of a home invasion. That night told me how seriously you had my back.
Now that you’re gone, I know if I was to face a similar situation to the one you got me out of in the apartment, I would be robbed. Maybe, I would be killed. With you gone, I will never feel quite as comfortable as I felt with you here.
As a guide you were great. Your ability to memorize routes was always so impressive. As soon as you stopped working and I had to go back to the cane all the time, I was reminded of how much easier you made navigating. No longer could I simply daydream as you guided me around. Instead, I have to constantly pay attention. I can’t rely on you figuring out a way around unexpected barriers. Now, I have to use my cane and hope it finds an opening that will work.
I know it shouldn’t matter to me, but now I’m very aware of how different I look when I’m traveling on my own. I’m no longer out with a cool dog. I’m obviously slower. I look more awkward. If something is different about my route, it will be a harder, slower, process for me to get on track. And, of course, there is the reality that as a blind person with a cane I have much more difficulty getting help when I need it than I did with you. As you know, most people were way more comfortable talking with me about you than they will ever be talking with me about me.
I couldn’t write a goodbye letter to you without remembering all of the fun and laughs we had. I have no idea how many times I threw your ring.
I will always remember getting the backpack we took to the park from the closet and listening to you whine with excitement. The laughs of the people as we literally ran passed them on our way to the park as you continued singing, will always make me smile.
A couple of days ago, Grandma and I were remembering the smiles on people’s faces as you hung out the window singing as she drove you to her house to play.
Like all of us, you weren’t perfect. There were times your stubbornness pissed me off. There were times you wanted to have too much fun. Sometimes, you stopped to sniff something when I really needed to hurry.
I know there were times I wasn’t patient enough with you. There were other times when I didn’t trust you the way you deserved to be trusted. There were a few times when I got too busy with my own stuff to give you the attention you had become used to getting.
You and I weren’t perfect with each other. We weren’t always fair to each other. But our relationship was as perfect as a relationship between a person and a guide dog could ever become.
It’s time for me to say goodbye, U-dawg. It’s time for me to let you rest in peace. But as you rest in peace. As I know you are no longer in pain, I hope you know how much I love and respect you. Until it’s my turn to rest in peace, you will always own a special place in my heart. Until it’s my turn to say goodbye to those I love, the lessons you are still teaching will make me a better man.
Rest in peace, U-dawg. Your love and spirit will live on in the hearts of those of us lucky enough to love you.